Archive for November, 2011

Wednesday, November 30th, 2011

Reminder: SantaThing Signup Closes Soon!

Quick reminder: signup for SantaThing 2011 closes at 4 p.m. EST tomorrow, Thursday December 1!

Go here to sign up, or feel free to browse the list of Santas and make suggestions!

Also see the Talk thread where generous LTers are sponsoring others so that they can participate in SantaThing this year.

Labels: santathing

Tuesday, November 29th, 2011

November Bonus Batch!

The November 2011 Bonus Batch batch of Early Reviewer books is up! It features 225 copies of 9 titles from Putnam/Riverhead, including works by Dave Barry, Shalom Auslander, Sara Paretsky, Walter Mosley, and more!

First, make sure to sign up for Early Reviewers. If you’ve already signed up, please check your mailing address and make sure it’s correct.

Then request away! The list of available books is here:

The deadline to request a copy is Monday, December 5th at 6 p.m. EST.

Eligiblity: This bonus batch is U.S. only.

Labels: bonus batch, early reviewers, LTER

Monday, November 28th, 2011

Reading Flash-Mob!

If you’re in or around LibraryThing’s home base in Portland, Maine, we hope you’ll join LibraryThing and the Maine Humanities Council for a “Reading Flash Mob,” on Thursday December 15, to coincide with Portland’s annual downtown Merry Madness festival! We’ll convene outside Longfellow Books at 5:00 p.m. and read in public until around 6:30 p.m. (and then we’ll do some shopping or grab a bite to eat).

RSVP on the Facebook page, or just let us know here that you’re coming. We hope to see you there!

Labels: flash mob, maine, meet up

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2011

November Author Interviews!

This month’s State of the Thing, LibraryThing’s monthly newsletter of features, author interviews and various forms of bookish delight, should have made its way to your inbox by now. You can also read it online.

We had a whole host of author interviews this month:

I talked to author Dava Sobel about her latest book, A More Perfect Heaven: How Copernicus Revolutionized the Cosmos, published by Walker & Company.

You’ve done something quite unconventional with this book, putting a two-act play right in the center. How did this idea come about?

My original idea was to write the play. Well into that process—after I’d written and re-written the play several times—my editor, George Gibson, suggested writing a book around the play. I had already accumulated a cache of background information through my research, and he urged me to put that to use. The process of writing the nonfiction narrative produced many good effects: I stopped worrying about what Copernicus might say to me for putting words in his mouth. Also I was able to re-write the play yet again, with a new-found freedom to let the characters rip.

What was it about the idea of a play that drew you to use a dramatic recreation, rather than some other method, to recreate the collaboration between Copernicus and Rheticus?

Since February 1973, when I first learned of their meeting, I have wanted to write a play that would imagine their conversation—how Rheticus convinced Copernicus to do what he’d avoided doing for a lifetime (i.e. publish his book). Everyone knows their meeting took place, but no one knows what they said to each other. The situation seemed ripe for imagination.

Read the rest of our interview with Dava Sobel.

Our second interview this month was with Ken Jennings about Maphead: Charting the Wide, Weird World of Geography Wonks, published by Scribner.

So what is it about maps, anyway? Why are so many people so fascinated by them?

Maps are an extremely elegant solution to one of the most difficult problems ever to face human beings: finding our way through a big, complicated world that we only see firsthand in tiny bits and pieces.

For a map geek, seeing a map of a territory is an empowering act, and maybe even an armchair adventure, if you can project yourself into the map and imagine yourself exploring its contours. But the same map that empowers one person can totally frustrate and confuse another—it’s a matter of how good our spatial and navigational senses are. The good news is that those are senses that can quickly be improved through practice, researchers now know.

If you could visit one of the weird/out-of-the-way places you highlight in the book, which would it be?

I was fascinated by what I read about Baarle-Hertog, a small town on the border between Belgium and the Netherlands. A series of crazy treaties and land swaps between two 12th-century dukes have led to a bizarrely baroque international border there. Twenty-something tiny little bits of Belgium sit smack in the middle of Dutch territory, and many of those have, in turn, even tinier bits of the Netherlands inside them. (The smallest such parcel is well under an acre—a tiny Dutch cow pasture in the middle of a Belgian housing development.) Many houses straddle the border, so residents choose their citizenship based on which side their front door faces, and have been known to move the front door every time tax laws change. When bars close early on the Dutch side of the border, owners can move their tables over to the Belgian side and keep serving.

Read the rest of our interview with Ken Jennings.

I also interviewed Robert K. Massie about his new biography, Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman (Random House), a very popular Early Reviewers pick in September.

Most of your books have dealt with Russian history in some way: how did you first become interested in the subject?

My interest in Russian history evolved from a circumstance in my own family. My first child, my son, Robert Massie Jr., was born with hemophilia. I had a history background from my studies at Yale and Oxford, and I knew a little bit—a very little bit—about the Tsarevich Alexis, the only son and heir to Nicholas II, the last tsar, or emperor, of Russia. Alexis had hemophilia, passed down to him through his mother, a grandaughter of Queen Victoria. This boy’s illness led to the involvement of Rasputin as a healer … and the terrible intertwined sequence of family and political events which led to the fall of the monarchy and the Russian Revolution. Nothing had ever been written about this family and these events from this perspective and I decided to do it. That was forty-seven years ago. My first book, Nicholas and Alexandra, was the result.

Tell us about the research process for this book: how long did it
take? Where did it take you?

Catherine the Great has taken me eight years to write. Over all the years, I have been to Russia twenty times, from the Baltic to the Black Sea to the Urals and Siberia.

Read the rest of our interview with Robert Massie.

Last but not least (and very appropriately for this month, we thought), I talked with Hugh Nissenson about his new novel The Pilgrim, published this month by Sourcebooks Landmark.

Your books are set in an impressive variety of time periods. What drew you to seventeenth-century England/New England?

Aside from a life-long passion for the language of Shakespeare and the King James translation of the Bible, I had no serious prior interest in the period. But some seven years ago, in that state of suspension which precedes the birth of a new novel, I took down from my bookshelf a dog-eared copy of Myths and Legends of New England, by Diana Ross McCain. I re-read a brief essay about the hanging of an Englishman by his fellow settlers at Wessagusset, which was an abortive early settlement near Plymouth in New England. The story stayed with me. I began reading about the Puritans in England and their creation in 1620 of the Plymouth colony. I discovered that the incident at Wessagusset really happened. The starving Englishman who was hanged had stolen some seed corn from local Indians who forced the settlers to execute him for his crime. I became fascinated by historic figures like Miles Standish and Governor Bradford, and fictional characters began accreting in my imagination as well. The novel was taking shape.

More specifically, how did you decide to make the Wessagusset settlement the centerpiece of your narrator’s experience in Massachusetts?

I saw the Wessagusset hanging as a commentary on one of our nation’s foundation myths. Moreover, it was emblematic of the conflict between the Puritans’ passion to create the Kingdom of Heaven on earth in the wilderness of the New World and their inevitable complicity with evil. I soon realized that the novel had to be narrated by its protagonist who struggles throughout the book with the ramifications of this conflict.

Read the rest of our interview with Hugh Nissenson.

Catch up on previous State of the Thing newsletters.

If you don’t get State of the Thing, you can add it in your email preferences. You also have to have an email address listed.

Labels: author interview, state of the thing

Monday, November 21st, 2011

SantaThing 2011: Play secret Santa to a book lover!

It’s time to announce the fifth annual SantaThing!

What is SantaThing, you ask? SantaThing is Secret Santa for LibraryThing members. Go ahead and sign up now.

The idea is simple. You pay into the SantaThing system—this year $10, $15, $20, $25 or $30. You play Santa to a LibraryThing member we pick for you*, and choose books for them, based on their LibraryThing library and a short description. Someone else (secret!) does the same for you. LibraryThing does the ordering, and you get the joy of giving AND receiving books!

You can sign up as many times as you like. You can sign up for yourself or for someone else. If you sign up for someone without a LibraryThing account, make sure to mention what kinds of books they’d like, so their Secret Santa can choose wisely.

Even if you don’t want to be a Santa, you can help by suggesting books for others.

A peppermint twist to the plot. Like just about every year, we’ve decided to make some tweaks to the SantaThing process. For the first time we’re allowing members to choose how much they pay in. Choose to pay $15, for example, and someone will pick $15 worth of books for you. Choose $30, and someone will pick $30 worth of books for you.

If you choose the $10, $15, $20, or $25 options, you can choose to have your books picked and sent from Powell’s Books, Harvard Book Store or BookDepository ships to the most number of countries (see the full list), and they have free shipping on orders of any size!**

If you select the $30 option, you can also choose to have your books come from or its national subsidiaries (, .ca, .de, .fr). Restricting Amazon to the $30 option was necessary because LibraryThing can’t otherwise get free shipping unless the gift totals $25 or more.***

Note that you don’t need to factor in shipping. There’s also no profit “cushion” built into this for us, although we expect under-orders to pay for situations where the shipping isn’t free. We do this for fun, not money.

Important dates:

  • Sign-ups close Thursday, December 1 at 4pm Eastern time. Once the sign-up closes, you’ll be able to use the same page to pick for your Santa.
  • Picking closes Thursday, December 8th at 4pm Eastern time. As soon as the picking ends, the ordering begins, and we’ll get all the books out to you as soon as we can. There’s no guarantee that we’ll have books to you by December 25th, but we’re going to do our best!

Go sign up to become a Secret Santa now!

Questions? Ask them in this Talk topic.

*We match members based on the contents of their catalog, thereby matching you with a Secret Santa you share tastes with. In theory. No guarantees.
**All the time! Go check them out—their prices are often as low as other online booksellers, and the free worldwide shipping with no minimum order is the absolute icing on the cake.
***The problem is that Amazon’s free shipping starts at $25, especially since they won’t let us use our Prime account. We considered making everyone pay $30 and then “splitting” the order—so everyone would get and give to two people (see the Talk thread debating what to do). But there were obstacles. $15 is a lousy target on Amazon, and if the total of the gifts was below $25, we’d end up paying full price for it. Abby came up with the solution—$30 for Amazon, $10-30 for everyone else.

Labels: santathing, secret santa

Monday, November 14th, 2011

Boston Meetup Recap & Pics

The Boston meetup on Saturday was a grand time of book shopping, food, and LT discussions! The day started off with brunch at at Trident Booksellers and Cafe on Newbury Street, then a stop at Raven Used Books’ Newbury Street shop before we headed over to the Boston International Antiquarian Book Fair for a look around.

During the afternoon we visited the Brattle Book Shop and Commonwealth Books, and then we trekked out to Cambridge and visited Harvard Bookstore and the Raven location on JFK Street. We convened at the Hong Kong for dinner to cap off a long but delightful day (Tim and _Zoe_ even shared a Peking duck).

We very much enjoyed being able to put faces to LibraryThing usernames, and were so pleased that folks were willing to travel so far: we had a good contingent from the Boston area and Western Massachusetts, _Zoe_ came up from New York, and norabelle414 wins the distance prize; she came up from D.C. for the meetup! We hope to do more meetups like this one, so if you’re interested in future events, join the LibraryThing Gatherings and Meetup group, or stay tuned to the blog for future announcements!

For more pictures from the weekend, see the gallery (or add your own by tagging your images “Boston 2011” and “meetup”).

Labels: meet up

Saturday, November 12th, 2011

LT Boston Meetup: 6:30 at Harvard Bookstore

If you’re in Boston, come to dinner tonight (Saturday, November 12) with other LibraryThing members.

We’re meeting 6:30 tonight at Harvard Bookstore, decamping to Grafton Street or perhaps the Hong Kong.

More details here. If you’re late and want to know where we are, call Tim at 207 272-0553.

Labels: meet up

Monday, November 7th, 2011

November Early Reviewers batch is up!

The November 2011 batch of Early Reviewer books is up! We’ve got 81 books this month, and a grand total of 2,143 copies to give out.

First, make sure to sign up for Early Reviewers. If you’ve already signed up, please check your mailing address and make sure it’s correct.

Then request away! The list of available books is here:

The deadline to request a copy is Monday, November 28th at 6 p.m. EST.

Eligiblity: Publishers do things country-by-country. This month we have publishers who can send books to the US, Canada, the UK, Israel, Australia, and a whole bunch of other countries. Make sure to check the flags by each book to see if it can be sent to your country.

Thanks to all the publishers participating this month!

Gefen Publishing House Mulholland Books Bloomsbury
WaterBrook Press Penguin Young Readers Group Henry Holt and Company
Chronicle Books Random House White Crow Books
Taylor Trade Publishing Zenith Press SmatteringsBooks
Harper Paperbacks Gunga Peas Books, LLC Ballantine Books
Advantage Media Group Telegram Books Chin Music Press
Matador BookViewCafe Doubleday Books
JournalStone SpaceStation Colt Kayelle Press
Maupin House Publishing MCM Publishing Small Beer Press
The Permanent Press Beacon Press William Morrow
Seven Oaks Publishing Prufrock Press Kirkdale Press
Human Kinetics PakaMdogo Press RFS Publishing
Quirk Books Candlemark & Gleam The Writer’s Coffee Shop
Eerdmans Books for Young Readers Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. St. Martin’s Griffin
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Open Books Camel Press
Coffeetown Press University Press of New England Northeastern University Press
South Dakota State Historical Society Press

Labels: early reviewers, LTER

Thursday, November 3rd, 2011

“Book haiku” field added

Just for the heck of it, we’ve added a “Book haiku” field on work pages (find it in the LibraryThing members’ description section, near the bottom of the page). Try your hand at summarizing your favorite books in 17 syllables!*

Some examples:

Run away from home
Lazy Summer down river
Ignorance ain’t bliss

(readafew, for The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn)

Boat on the ocean
Was there really a tiger?
We will never know.

(mamajoan, for Life of Pi)

See recently-added haikus here, accessible via the More tab. Add yours (via the work page), and, if so inclined, tweet them using the hashtag #bookhaiku. We’ll be tweeting some of our favorites from @LibraryThing, too.

* Reminder: a haiku consists of three lines: five, seven, and five syllables respectively.

Labels: haiku, new feature, new features

Tuesday, November 1st, 2011

Big “other authors” changes

We’ve just pushed some rather major changes to how LibraryThing displays authors, as well as other contributors to a work, like translators, editors, etc. This functionality has been around for a few months for members of the Board for Extreme Thing Advances, but we’ve improved it and released it. We thank them very much for helping us get it right!

LibraryThing has long allowed you to edit and add multiple authors and their “roles” within their catalogs, the so-called “book level.” Now, work pages also include an “Other authors” module with a link to “Add/edit other authors.” Clicking that link will open up a lightbox where you can add, edit, confirm or reject other author entries for that work, assign the various authors to the correct roles, and mark whether they apply to the entire work or to only some editions. By popular request we have also opened up the “primary author” to editing, so you can now edit them, and their roles.

Some examples:

Other authors who apply to all editions of the work will show up at the top of the work page, like A Passion for Books, where Ray Bradbury wrote the foreword. Authors who contributed to some editions will show up in the “Other authors” section, linked from the top of the page: an example is Keigo Higashino’s The Devotion of Suspect X, showing Alexander O. Smith as the translator.

We’ve also added the ability to edit the name and add a role for the “primary” (ie., “lead”) author of a work, something much-requested during the BETA test of this feature. There’s no real need to do this for single-author books, but for some types of works it’ll be useful. Examples:

There will, of course, be debate on the issue of main and secondary authors. Generally speaking, co-author or co-editor status falls under the “main author” setting, while most other roles would count as “secondary author.” Obviously there will be exceptions to this, such as a book of photography or artwork where the artist rises to the level of “main author”.

This concept of “other authors” is live across the site, but it will take a while to play out how it should appear everywhere. But we wanted to get it out there and let you all have a go.

Come talk about the feature here, or report bugs here.

The changes prompted but do not require a change to how book/work pages show their book- and work-level data. This question is being discussed here.

Labels: authors, new feature, new features